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APPENDIX, or suggestions for teaching sculpture to children aged 8–14

In my lessons I would like to make the children “capable of adequately expressing their thoughts and feelings”, but I would not make this dependent on the level of their skill at depiction (the two do not always coincide in the case of adult artists, either), and nor would I leave any half-solved, recurring problems (see Atilla József’s great principle of evolution on the one hand, and the question marks surrounding the spiral teaching of other subjects, e.g. literature, history, on the other); and I would be sparing with the information on artistic techniques (as in the absence of time and equipment, this could only be superficial).

Knowing and recognising the validity of the educational methodology (refl ection) devised by 19th-century academia, which remains valid to this day, in my syllabus I wish to provide a cautious transition, a bridge of sorts, between the children’s spontaneous drawing ability and potential studies at grammar school or college level. In brief: to thread onto a straight line the stations between the ideogram as the starting point, and depiction as the end result. This would correspond to the special characteristics of the children’s age, and their development, and would give scope for the use of abundant historical analogies, creating perfect subjects that are suitable for their age, while leaving broad scope for the enrichment of their imaginations.

I would add two other concepts alongside that of depiction: representation (this is clearly positive) and reproduction (much more problematic). Because the objecthood that carries this image (life form, appearance) has a far greater role in sculpture than in the other branches of visual art, because as the first step the children’s ability to create objects needs to be developed. The elementary geometric bodies, as perfect objects, can easily assume the ideograms of spontaneous children’s drawings, and as ideoplastic signs, could become works in their own right. This would be the first degree of depiction, where the acquired skills and the imagination still manifest themselves with no external pattern. At this stage, the ceramic use of the clay is very important, because this trains them in the deliberate, constructive use of this otherwise malleable material.

The launch of the reproduction stage serves to develop the ability to create objects and acquire new sculptural motifs and ideograms. Copying the folk carvings and gingerbread patterns that are most suitable for children aged 8-10, as well as the sculptures of Neolithic and primitive peoples, both broadens and disciplines the imagination.

The negligible distance between copying and depiction can now be reduced by drawing these objects in nature. The children’s ability to see forms would be developed not by the drawing of dry, geometric forms, or ‘nature’, which is intangible to them in terms of form, but by the drawing of preformed artistic objects. By necessity these drawings still lack the essential component of depiction, spatiality.

At the age of 10-12 years, object creation, reproduction and depiction can be separated more easily. The development of spatial vision is primarily served by drawing, through familiarity with the optical laws (perspective, shadow and cast shadow).

The object-building (either ceramics, metalworking or wood carving) can be continued (maintaining interest with figurative and ornamental augmentation). For reproduction, I recommend the statues of the Ancient Near East, Archaic Greek or Migration-Period provincial, Byzantine and Roman, as well as peasant baroque, patterns. The incorporation of streamlined, reduced forms into a new, figurative unit (e.g the Herma of Ladislaus I of Hungary)

represents a step up on the path from the object to picturehood. An experiment in illuminating the complicated relationship between the plane and space: a three-dimensional group of statues (free association) and, for example, the patterning of a fragment of an Ancient Roman fresco into a relief.

At the end of the period, to consolidate the skills and lessons learned, some stick figure studies (proportions of the human body and spatial arrangement of the body parts) followed by a free, multi-figure composition can be included.

After all this preparatory work, we can happily devote the last two years to depiction and to preparing for grammar school, as the methodology for doing so is provided for perfectly in the compiled experimental programme.

(Unpublished text, Budapest, 27 October 1986)